I've talked before about the growing importance of studies in my art practice. Since leaving London and my beautiful studio space there, I've really come to appreciate the value of creating smaller works on paper. I've just moved to Lyon, and can't wait to have a regular studio again, where I can work some of these studies into fruition.
Studies are a safe place to experiment and play with techniques and ideas before I bring them to the canvas. There's less of a formality involved when I work on paper, and less pressure to produce a fully-formed and completed work. I can try things that might not work out, and see how altering my technique changes the conceit of the overall painting, without risking the heartbreaking trauma that comes with taking a wrong turn on a full-scale project.
In this work on paper I used cool tones to create the form of the body and the background, creating a tense relationship between the calm, cool facture of these elements and the intense warmth of the painting's focal point – the mouth.
A detail of the brushwork: I used shorter staccato strokes around the throat and chin to contrast with sweeping swathes of color on the chest. This combination of techniques within the single painting laid out the base for me to then experiment with color in the subsequent layers.
Here's another study that never moved beyond this stage.
Here I was trying to see what would happen if I incorporated the heavy charcoal lines of my preliminary drawing into the oil paint. In this instance the resulting muddiness couldn't be incorporated into the aesthetic that I wanted to create. But that's what studies are for.
The next three images show the stages of progression of a study I did to experiment with light and dark backgrounds.
The underpainting for this study was very muted, and I thought it was a great opportunity to experiment with a rich black background. This study was very useful for a larger painting that I created later.
Last is another work on paper, again shown in all its stages of process. In this one I worked to complete the painting in one layer, something I don't typically do. I did the preliminary drawing in yellow pencil and used a very thin oil to create this painting. The whiteness of the paper comes through the furrows left by the brush in the paint.
This is an example of a study that completely took me by surprise. I was experimenting with an unfamiliar technique, but the completed result is a work in its own right.